Posts Tagged ‘Ronan Farrow’

Harvey Weinstein, Serial Rapist

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

I had avoided writing on the Harvey Weinstein slimefest because everyone and their dog was on it, but the story has now morphed from “sleazy Hollywood studio exec and Democratic Party megadoner pressured women to watch him wank off” to “sleazy Hollywood studio exec and Democratic Party megadoner is actually a serial rapist.”

I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times’s revelations, and also include far more serious claims.

Three women––among them [Italian film actress Asia] Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is “used to.” Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.

(Note: I’m not a big Ronan Farrow fan, since he made it to his current position in the world off family connections rather than hard work. But this piece seems to be a fair, first-rate work of actual journalism. Good job, kid.)

This is no longer “Weinstein needs to be fired from his own company [which has already happened], sued for millions of dollars and blackballed from working in Hollywood ever again,” this is “Harvey Weinstein needs to be put behind bars for a long, long time.”

That’s a big story. An even bigger story is how vast swathes of the media establishment was complicit in hiding his predatory behavior for decades.

But of course people knew about Harvey Weinstein. Like the New York Times, for instance. Sharon Waxman, a former reporter at the Times, writes in The Wrap how she had the story on Weinstein in 2004—and then he bullied the Times into dropping it. Matt Damon and Russell Crowe even called her directly to get her to back off the story. And Miramax was a major advertiser. Her editor at the Times, Jonathan Landman, asked her why it mattered. After all, he told Waxman, “he’s not a publicly elected official.”

Manhattan’s district attorney knew, too. In 2015, Weinstein’s lawyer donated $10,000 to the campaign of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance after he declined to file sexual assault charges against the producer. Given the number of stories that have circulated for so long, Weinstein must have spread millions around New York, Los Angeles, and Europe to pay off lawyers and buy silence, including the silence of his victims.

That’s Cyrus Vance, Jr., son of Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State. How strange that a Democrat District Attorney declined to pursue charges against the Democrat megadonor donating to his campaign. What are the odds?

The real issue, as [New York Magazine‘s Rebecca] Traister notes, was that “there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine.” Traister is referring to Talk, the magazine Weinstein started at Miramax with Tina Brown. The catchword was “synergy”—magazine articles, turned into books, turned into movies, a supply chain of entertainment and information that was going to put these media titans in the middle of everything and make them all richer.

Traister and I worked at Talk together in the late ’90s. There were lots of talented journalists but it was still a mess. Outside of “synergy,” there was no idea driving the magazine, and Tina’s search for a vision was expensive. She spent lavishly on writers, art directors, photographers, and parties. Harvey got angry. Every time Tina went downtown to meet with him he screamed at her the whole time. He humiliated her. At least this was the story that went around the office every time she went down there, a story circulating through, and circulated by, several dozen journalists.

Or, to put it another way: More than 20 people in one magazine office alone all had the story about Harvey Weinstein’s “mistreatment” of women.

So why didn’t anyone write it? Not to take anything away from Jodi Kantor’s excellent New York Times piece, but the reality is that everyone had the story.

The reason no one wrote it is not because the press wanted to get Weinstein, but couldn’t prove the story. No, it’s because the press was protecting Weinstein.

Why wouldn’t they? He made terrific movies and he was a big mover in Democratic party politics, raising millions for local and national campaigns, including the Clintons. (Hillary, some readers will recall, was on the cover of Talk’s first issue.)

John Kennedy, Jr. tried to blend politics and entertainment with the magazine he founded, George. His basic insight was correct; but he misunderstood something crucial. And John John misunderstood it because he was, by all accounts, a good man.

You know the old joke about Washington: That it’s Hollywood for ugly people. Kennedy thought that this was unfair to Washington and that the people in the nation’s capital had the capacity for glamour, too.

But it turns out that the joke works in the opposite direction: Hollywood is for ugly people, too. That was Harvey Weinstein’s essential insight, and how he managed to combine the worlds of politics, entertainment, and media. They’re all repulsive—and I know they’re disgusting or else they wouldn’t be courting, of all people, me.

Thus his fortress was quarried from the misshapen material of human vanity, ambition, and greed. Writers and journalists—the intellectuals, in his mind—were nearly as contemptible as actors. They wouldn’t dream of crossing a guy who could turn them into culture heroes with a phone call. Hey, I just optioned your novel and I already know who’s going to make the movie. And oh yeah, please confirm that you don’t, like I think I may have heard, have a reporter looking into a story about me.

A friend reminds me that there was a period when Miramax bought the rights to every big story published in magazines throughout the city. Why mess with Weinstein when that big new female star you’re trying to wrangle for the June cover is headlining a Miramax release? Do you think that glossy magazine editor who threw the swankiest Oscar party in Hollywood was trying to “nail down” the Weinstein story? Right, just like the hundreds of journalists who were ferried across the river for the big party at the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the premiere of Talk—they were all there sipping champagne and sniffing coke with models in order to “nail down” the story about how their host was a rapist.

That’s why the story about Harvey Weinstein finally broke now. It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays. They’re broke because Facebook and Google have swallowed all the digital advertising money that was supposed to save the press as print advertising continued to tank.

Look at Vanity Fair, basically the in-house Miramax organ that Tina failed to make Talk: Condé Nast demanded massive staff cuts from Graydon Carter and he quit. He knows they’re going to turn his aspirational bible into a blog, a fate likely shared by most (if not all) of the Condé Nast books.

Si Newhouse, magazine publishing’s last Medici, died last week, and who knows what will happen to Condé now. There are no more journalists; there are just bloggers scrounging for the crumbs Silicon Valley leaves them. Who’s going to make a movie out of a Vox column? So what does anyone in today’s media ecosystem owe Harvey Weinstein? And besides, it’s good story, right? “Downfall of a media Mogul.” Maybe there’s even a movie in it.

Snip.

The other reason the Weinstein story came out now: Because the court over which Bill Clinton once presided, a court in which Weinstein was one part jester, one part exchequer, and one part executioner, no longer exists.

A thought experiment: Would the Weinstein story have been published if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency? No, and not because he is a big Democratic fundraiser. It’s because if the story was published during the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it wouldn’t have really been about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey would have been seen as a proxy for the president’s husband and it would have embarrassed the president, the first female president.

Bill Clinton offered get-out-of-jail-free cards to a whole army of sleazeballs, from Jeffrey Epstein to Harvey Weinstein to the foreign donors to the Clinton Global Initiative. The deal was simple: Pay up, genuflect, and get on with your existence. It was like a papacy selling indulgences, at the same time that everyone knew that the cardinals were up to no good.

So why all the “courage” in exposing Weinstein now? Simple. As John Nolte notes “Today Weinstein is widely regarded as past his prime. Numerous reports indicate that the 65-year-old is in deep financial trouble. Moreover, he has not produced a hit or come near Oscar gold in nearly five years, and his highest profiles offerings have all bombed.”

Hollywood and the media can finally tell the truth about Weinstein because he’s a has-been that can no longer help or hurt them.

There’s talk that Weinstein could go to prison over the scandal. Well, I certainly hope so; last time I checked, rape was still a felony. Maybe he can share a cell with Anthony Weiner.

Now to finish with a few piquant tweets on the issue:

All other things being equal, I prefer to go through the day without thinking about Judi Dench’s ass.

Finally, if anyone in Hollywood knows of other serial rapists and sexual abusers (and you know Weinstein isn’t the only one; he may not even be the worst…), now would be a swell time to come forward before more women (and boys) are raped or sexually abused…